Using Feudalism for Political Criticism and for Promoting Systemic Change in China
AbstractThis article examines the discussion about feudalism between 1978–1982 in the official Chinese press, including newspapers, academic publications, and party journals. This discussion is an example of the Chinese tradition of using history to analyze one’s own society. This discussion did not examine historical conditions in feudal society as such, but reflected contemporary socio-political needs and agendas. In the Chinese tradition, history has been not only a method to speak about sensitive topics under strict political censorship, but also a tool for political influence through the writing of history. Conducted as a critique of feudalism, this discussion was one of the many components of the successful attack of the Mao Zedong era. It paved the way for the ascendancy of the reformists and the transformation from state planning towards a market economy.
This article offers an introduction to the discourse of feudalism, its emergence and its use to explain contemporary problems within the Chinese political and economic system, evident even today in academic and theoretical journals. Apart from the discussion about feudalism itself, the aim of this article is to understand how historiography is used for political criticism in China. This practice leaves space for counter-criticism to the official orthodoxy, whatever
that currently may be.